Pets and Toxic Plants

Weed Lethal Foliage from Your Home


If you’ve got a green thumb or even the slightest fondness for keeping houseplants around then it’s time to take a serious inventory of the foliage inside and around your home. The Humane Society of the United States has identified more than 700 plants as producers of physiologically active or toxic substances that are dangerous to pets.

The effects of these poisonous plants can range from mild nausea to death. Vulnerability to plant toxicities depends on pet species, amount ingested and the size of your pet.

Plant Smarts

Plants and flowers that pet owners should educate themselves about most are those that can lead to death through heart, central nervous system and kidney damage, says Dr. Cori Gross, a practicing veterinarian in Seattle and a former field veterinarian for Nationwide pet insurance. For example, while poinsettias can certainly cause minor gastrointestinal issues in cats, lilies are often deadly.

In some cases, the entire plant is toxic but in some cases it may just be the bulb, stem, leaf or petal of the plant that is poisonous. You need to check with your veterinarian if you have any questions about the portion of the plant that is toxic. It is probably best not to have any poisonous plants around pets. Sprays sold in pet stores or nurseries to keep pets away from plants are often not very effective.

Top Toxins Checklist

Lilies, like many plants and flowers, are toxic in small amounts. Lilies might smell fabulous but these particular blooms are incredibly lethal and can lead to heart and renal failure. (Signs of toxicity might include rapid breathing, racing or irregular pulse, cold extremities, vomiting and lethargy.)

Some plants are not that toxic unless pets have ingested a large amount — at that point in time, it could become fatal. Cardiotoxic plants* and lilies are the worst kind, says Gross.

"As a general rule, if you even think your pet nibbled on one of your plants, call your veterinarian because some of these toxins act very quickly."

Plant species that pet owners should exclude from flowerbeds to protect pets include:

Dog sits outdoors
  • Autumn crocus*
  • Azalea*
  • Calla lily
  • Day lily
  • Easter lily
  • Elephant's ear
  • Foxglove*
  • Hyacinth*
  • Hydrangea*
  • Japanese pieris*
  • Larkspur
  • Lupine
  • Morning glory
  • Oleander*
  • Rhododendron* Tiger lily
  • Yew

Plants, fruits and vegetables to omit from gardens and to avoid elsewhere:

  • Avocados
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Onions and garlic
  • Rhubarb (leaves)
  • Tomato (leaves and immature fruit)
  • Cycad species, including sago palm, can cause liver failure. (Signs of toxicity here might include vomiting.). Castor Beans and acorns are also very toxic.

Make sure to check out a list of other budding poisons and subsequent symptoms here.

In An Emergency

Cat sits in a field

“As a general rule, if you even think your pet nibbled on one of your plants, call your veterinarian because some of these toxins act very quickly,” says Gross. “Don’t forget to bring a sample of the plant to the veterinarian's office for identification, as well as an estimate as to how much the pet ate.”

If you believe your pet ingested poison, you can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline's 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-800-213-6680.*

For more information on common pet toxins and poisons, visit the Pet HealthZone toxins and poisons center.

If you'd like to read more about toxic plants, you may enjoy our story on spring garden safety.

*A fee is billed by Pet Poison Helpline. PPH is not affiliated with Nationwide pet insurance.

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